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How NOT To Do Business on Facebook… or anywhere!

I had a very unpleasant experience last week: a gal, I’ll call Ms. X, ripped off my copyrighted sales copy for and, put it up verbatim on her Facebook Profile, her website, and on Podclass… and began promoting the programs as if they were her own. I was shocked.

(I’ve been on the Alpha Team of Podclass since spring ’07 and am now a Platinum Member; Podclass is a Facebook app where you can teach and take classes).

Ms. X calls herself a global communications expert. We had only recently become Facebook friends.

I had not exchanged any communications with Ms. X, and here she was plastering herself all over my wall, shoving her business interest down my throat. Not good manners! In fact, this is SPAM.

Clearly, she was new to the social networking world and wasn’t familiar with what’s called “fetiquette”: Facebook etiquette. (Actually, I assert this aggressive approach is not good etiquette anywhere. Period.) I immediately deleted the wall post.

[By the way, I recommend you keep an eye on your Profile (personal) and Page (business) and weed out anything that isn’t appropriate. Make sure you keep a nice clean Wall. In my opinion, your Profile is like your blog, website, business card, brochure, photo album, virtual storefront, and more, all-in-one. Your prospective clients, business partners, and your competitors may be watching you closely.]

A week after the Wall post incident, it came to my attention Ms. X had plagiarized my materials. I could hardly believe this gal was presenting classes as if she were an expert on Facebook; she’d only recently joined Facebook and had about 40 friends.

Here’s the actions I took immediately:

  • Wrote on her Facebook Profile Wall.
  • Emailed her through Facebook, asking why she’d taken my material verbatim.
  • Emailed her through Podclass.
  • Emailed her via the contact form on her main website.
  • Called her and left a voicemail message.
  • Removed her as a Facebook friend.

(Why did I write on her Wall? I wrote one line querying why she’d taken my materials, knowing it would push into her friends’ and my friends’ News Feeds. It was important to me I alert others quickly her offerings were stolen materials. It didn’t surprise me she too quickly deleted the Wall post.

Also, even if you remove someone as a Facebook friend, you can still exchange email with one another. To prevent all interaction with a Facebook member, you have to block them as I wrote about here).

Ms. X returned my call and we had a short conversation. She kept asking how she could make it up to me and win back my trust. I had her on loudspeaker with a colleague listening in; my colleague said I was way too kind, patient, and understanding.

Hm, turns out Ms. X blamed her VA (virtual assistant) who’d “stepped down”; and then she sent me a bunch of flowers to my “office” (which is actually a PO Box I check twice a month tops). Oh well.

Here’s the thing: I do not believe in competition. Especially for the solopreneur. There’s only one YOU. No one can “compete” to be you. Even if you and I offer the exact same service, people will always do business with people they know, like, and trust. And, each of us adds our own personality, unique experience, and proven strategies into the mix.

Nonetheless, I cannot abide someone outright stealing from me. I could’ve created an amazing, win:win profitable collaborative venture with Ms. X… if only she’d asked. Sure as the saying goes, “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” But, I’d rather be flattered in other ways!

[I hesitated to write this post and expose such an unpleasant experience. However, I chose to go ahead in case even one person learns and benefits from it in some way.]

Now, I’m looking into CopyScape – have you used it? What actions would you recommend to protect your copyrighted materials online? Have you ever been a victim of plagiarism?

Mari Smith

Often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook,” Mari Smith is widely known as the Premier Facebook Marketing Expert and a top Social Media Thought Leader. Forbes describes Mari as, “… the preeminent Facebook expert. Even Facebook asks for her help.” IBM named Mari as one of seven women that are shaping digital marketing. Mari is an in-demand keynote speaker, corporate social media strategist, dynamic live webcast host, and popular brand ambassador. She is coauthor of Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day, and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

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  1. Gillian on August 3, 2008 at 4:24 am

    A variation on a similar theme – I used to do a lot of feasiblility studies and business plans.I once found that a client had revised the 3 year financial projections I had prepared to make the project profitable (and therefore eligible for a grant) when it was destined to be a major loss maker … fortunately the person reviewing the document knew me and knew that I would never have produced some optimisitic figures. This scared the heck out of me though … naively perhaps but it had never occurred to me that someone would take my work and then change it and present as my porfessional judgement in order to raise financing. I also experienced someone using my CV and adding me as a consultant adviser in order to win a contract without my knowledge or consent. I have not figured out how to avoid this – short of restricting my work to business coaching.

    Gillian’s last blog post.. Tag Biz – Application on Facebook

  2. Patty Hankins on March 26, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    @Mari – we do have lots of problems tracing the images on the web. One thing I’ve discovered is that many of the thieves are pretty stupid. They’ll deep link into my site – directly to the file.

    What they don’t realize is that stealing my bandwidth makes it much easier to find them. For images – I just do a google images search – and put in my domain name. It brings up pages of files that have that as the URL – and what website they are shown on.

    For a few non-US sites that were stealing several images – I just did a little behind the scenes work on my site – renaming the files and fixing the links internally. Then I replaced the file they linked to – with one that said “If you can see this – the website you are viewing is stealing my photos” Generally the deep links into my site were gone in a day or two

    I do have Google alerts set for my name, my business name, and my URLs. I’ve caught several infringements that way as well – from the people who think they can swipe them images and it’s OK as long as they provide a link back to my site.

    The sad thing is – in most cases – for personal use – I’ll grant someone a license for no fee.


  3. Jianjun on March 25, 2008 at 10:23 pm


    Thanks for sharing your experience. This kind of thing is disgusting. My own web site has been copied many times by fellow translators from China. I used to help some of them with starting business! So they reward me with this kind of flattery 😉

    I love your attitude toward coping with such an unpleasant thing and appreciate the link to CopyScape, which is amazingly helpful in detecting copycats.

    I believe what you stated is correct: “Even if you and I offer the exact same service, people will always do business with people they know, like, and trust.”


  4. Adam Gershenbaum on March 25, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Wow CopyScape is a great find thanks!

    There are many people who are educating people on the same subject. It would have been simple for her to look to you as a a mentor and cite you vs actually copying your words verbatim. Not a well thought out decision for her.

  5. Mari Smith on March 25, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    @Erin – thanks heaps for being the voice of the VAs. It’s such a trusted position and I know you’re first class in all you do. I actually think Ms. X used the poor VA as a scapegoat. (I hear ya on the LOA!)

    @Judy – your comment warmed my heart and made my day!

    @Denise – I emailed you the gal’s identity. You make a valid point… Should anyone else wish to know her identity, let me know & I’ll gladly share in private.

    @Donna – yikes, you sure had to learn the hard way too. Glad to hear you were able to tighten up your guidelines as a result though.

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